Pentecost 7 A: On the Question of Evil

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Dear Partner in Preaching, Years ago, a friend of mine, speaking about his golf game, said the key to success was to care enough about the game not to care. I think there’s something true about that with parables as well; that is, the best way to preach parables is to be serious enough about them to not take them too seriously. And, in particular, to be cautious about interpreting them too strictly or literally. Parables, according to C. H. Dodd, one of the great NT scholars of the last century, are “a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and...

Pentecost 6 A: Enough!

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 Dear Partner in Preaching, Whether we know it or not, most of us have been deeply shaped by Joachim Jeremias when it comes to reading this parable. You remember Jeremias, the German New Testament scholar who was so gifted at isolating the different literary forms and genres employed by the Evangelists to help guide our interpretations of their work? Well, whether you remember him or not, you’ve probably been influenced by him and, particularly, by his seminal work, The Parables of Jesus. 🙂 When it comes to this parable, Jeremias points out the distinct difference in tone and content between the parable “proper”...

Pentecost 5 A: Where We Least Expect God to Be

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 Dear Partner in Preaching, There’s something kind of funky going on here. I’d call it sinister except it’s just too incredibly human, and for that reason understandable, to attribute motives to it. But human or not, understandable or not, it can have devastating consequences. And so it’s worth talking about. It’s actually something of a two-step waltz. The first step is to decide what you think God should be (and that is usually something that affirms what we already think, feel, believe and/or have done). The second is to judge all others – and that includes their beliefs about God – by this same...

Pentecost 4 A: “Even”!

Matthew 10:40-42 Dear Partner in Preaching, “Even.” It’s such a small word. You use it only when you want to make a point. A point about something surprising or unlikely. And usually it’s a point about something surprisingly small or extremely unlikely. It’s functions a lot like the word “just” – as in “it takes just a little” – but intensified. Which is exactly how Jesus uses it here. Chapter 10 in Matthew is all about discipleship. He commissions the twelve disciples, empowers them to cure those who are sick and drive out evil spirits, sends them out to proclaim and enact the coming Kingdom of God, receives them back...

Pentecost 3 A: Two Timely Truths

Matthew 10: 24-39 Dear Partner in Preaching, There are two words here, both important for our people to hear. Division and discord are an inescapable part of our life in this world. Trust me, this won’t be news to your people. Every headline or news caption seems to blare this reality. Every family experiences the pain of this reality at one point or another. Every person in your congregation has been marked by this reality. No, this won’t be news. Much of that discord is avoidable and unnecessary. That’s the tragedy, but also the truth, of our condition, and we can commit ourselves to healing it where possible. But some of that...

Pentecost 2 A: Telling the Truth, Twice!

Matthew 9:35-10:8 Dear Partner in Preaching, Because of the way the readings for the Pentecost season are determined by the date on which Easter falls, we haven’t had a chance to hear this passage in Sunday worship for nearly a decade. It’s a great bridge from the Easter season that concludes just before Pentecost and Holy Trinity Sundays to the season of Pentecost proper. That bridge is immensely helpful for those who are trying to follow the narrative of Matthew, as after the Lenten focus on the journey to the cross and the Easter focus on the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection (both of which draw heavily from John’s...